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Paddy has passed a milestone on the long road to adulthood


Last week, we reflected on the astonishing stroke of good luck which placed Ireland so close to England, and on all the benefits which accrue from that.

We looked at the outsourcing of our issues such as unemployment and unwanted pregnancy. We celebrated the superiority of English culture, which has effectively become our own native culture, with men from Leitrim referring to Premier League clubs such as Bolton Wanderers as "we", as they should. And we toasted our unrivalled access to the best television and the best radio and the best music in the civilised world.

We gave thanks for the fact that there has been virtually no Irish success on an international scale without the deep involvement of one or more English people. And we gave respect to George Osborne -- the Chancellor of the Exchequer who recently urged the G7 finance ministers to go easy on poor Paddy, to no avail.

Indeed, it came as no surprise that they weighed in yet again with 12 points for us at the Eurovision. Like so many of the gifts bestowed upon us by our proximity to England, we hardly even notice it any more, and we have never rightly appreciated it -- we gave them six points back, which is a pretty accurate reflection of the interaction between our peoples, all things considered.

But we also need to take account of the fact that there is a downside to our astonishing stroke of luck. Due to the fact that we have been able to export so many of our embarrassing problems, essentially we have never had to grow up. And because we've never had to do it, we never really got around to doing it.

As a result, immaturity and inertia have long been the dominant themes in our public life, and indeed our private lives. And this is understandable in many ways -- after all, immaturity and inertia, or, if you like, eejitry and indolence, can be quite enjoyable most of the time.

Indeed, I think we'd all agree that eejitry and indolence are far more pleasant states of being than the more stressful ways of doing business which are quite common in grown-up countries.

And when you're right beside one of those countries, you can get away with it nearly all the time. But alas, at a time like this you need just a little bit more.

Imagine if our ruling class had approached our current financial problems with moral courage and deep intelligence, instead of immaturity and inertia. Where would we be then?

Well, we'd be in another country. In fact, if only we could send the banks off to England, we'd be laughing.

Time was when various undesirables would be brought before the judge in the district court, and the guard would mutter something and the solicitor would tell m'lud that the defendant was planning to leave for England very soon, at which point m'lud would dismiss the case as long as the defendant was indeed bound for old Blighty, ideally on the next bus out of town. Happy days.

But that was not really an option with Anglo.

Indeed, we persist in calling it "Anglo", when Anglo Irish Bank might more accurately be called simply "Irish" -- subconsciously perhaps we are still attaching more blame to the party of the first part.

But we have no choice now, but to accept some responsibility -- yes I know it is a terrible thing, this responsibility, but I feel that after last week we can say at least one thing in our favour -- the Queen came to Ireland, and she got out of here alive.

Which is no small thing. And which no-one can take away from us.

Indeed, perhaps in some way it may help us on the difficult journey towards adulthood.

Perhaps in the fullness of time we will see the various ceremonies with the Queen as a sort of a last rite, a fond farewell to Paddy's troubled adolescence. And perhaps the overall lack of conspicuous eejitry may indeed suggest that we are starting to grow up.

We were taking no chances here. We were not going to be indulging in our legendary spontaneity.

We know that there is a deep restlessness within the soul of Paddy. Always, he is longing for informality. He feels that when everything is properly organised, somehow he is not "free".

Yet he forced himself to endure almost an entire week of the most intense formality, in the company of the people who more or less invented it, and he did not let himself down.

He stood his ground, when with every fibre of his being he was longing to break free and to be acting the clown. He held the line , even when he wanted so desperately to paint a few other colours of his personality for the visiting monarch, to "be himself".

But like some medieval ritual, in which the hero must go through many trials, even after the ordeals of last week, there is still another test to come. Indeed, we were so wound up by it all, we had almost forgotten that a certain Barack Obama is coming here next week.

There is now a great danger that as soon as Obama appears on the steps of the plane and gives us a big wave, Paddy will "break out", like the dry drunk who just can't take it any more. Ah, it is a very great danger, after all that we've been through.

So we must gather ourselves now, for one last supreme effort. Somehow, we must hold the line.

It could be the making of us.

Sunday Independent